Change Brings Hope to Victims of Violent Crime; Guidelines Aim to Put End to Soft Sentences for Thugs

Article excerpt

Byline: SOPHIE DOUGHTY

ONE moment of violent madness can leave mental and physical scars that last a lifetime.

But for those assault victims lucky enough to see their attackers convicted in court, sometimes the sentence handed by the judge can seem nothing compared to the lasting damage they inflict.

However, new guidelines published by the Sentencing Council come into force this week, which aim to ensure judges and magistrates give out punishments that reflect both the harm they have caused to their victims.

The new guidelines covers a wide range of offences of violence, from causing grievous bodily harm with intent to common assault.

The changes address concerns expressed by some judges that previous guidelines placed too much attention on premeditation in assaults whereas their experience in court revealed that many offences of this type are spontaneous or involve minimum premeditation, such as a fight outside a pub at closing time.

The new guidelines also make it easier for judges and magistrates to identify the most important factors increasing the seriousness of an offence.

These includes offences committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public.

The new guidelines have been welcomed by attack victims on Tyneside. …